Former owner of White Bear Lake senior living firm files for bankruptcy

  • Article by: JUSTIN MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 27, 2013 - 10:21 PM

Brian Winges once owned a White Bear Lake business that operated several senior-care facilities.

A local entrepreneur who ran several senior-care facilities around the metro has filed for personal bankruptcy, listing almost $14 million in liabilities and $836,147 in assets.

Brian Winges, 48, who owned the White Bear Lake-based Suite Living Specialty Senior Services, made the Chapter 7 filing Feb. 14, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records.

Suite Living LLC went defunct about eight months ago, according to Winges’ bankruptcy attorney, Michael McGrath. Senior living facilities included locations in Maplewood, Hugo, Blaine, North Branch and Champlin.

Because the properties were owned by a real estate investment trust, most of the locations are still running as senior-care facilities under different ownership after Winges terminated his leases in an agreement, according to McGrath.

According to the bankruptcy filing, Winges is employed as a consultant with Phoenix Rose Development in Miami, Fla. He could not be reached for comment.

In the 205-page filing, Winges listed liabilities from his past business operations, including: Suite Living LLC, Comforts of Home Care LLC, Community Living Partnerships Management LLC and TOTI Holdings LLC.

Winges began business in the senior-care market in 1999 under the name Comforts of Home, with senior-care facilities in Wisconsin and Minnesota, according to the company’s website. In 2010, facilities were rebranded under the Suite Living name, the website said. The company was advertised as offering a nursing home-level of care that specialized in Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s care. The Suite Living locations were run as their own corporate entities under an LLC model.

Frisbie Architects developed and designed many of Winges’ facilities when it was under the Comforts of Home name. The company declined to comment on the filing. A search of court records shows the firm sued Winges and his entities three times in 2012.

JSSH Architects is another of the more than 200 creditors, which also include banks, medical service companies, law firms and others.

In 2007, JSSH Architects had a contract with Comforts of Home to plan and design a new location in Cambridge, said Ronald Swenson, JSSH vice president, in an interview. Swenson, who was acting as the firm’s project architect for Comforts of Home, said the firm got wind that Winges was working with Frisbie Architects on the same project. At that point, JSSH began negotiations to get paid, he said.

“It’s common with private development work to go quite a ways without getting paid,” said Swenson.

JSSH obtained a court order and Suite Living paid a portion of the money due the firm. Swenson said that a year ago, the firm stopped receiving payments. The bankruptcy filing puts JSSH’s claims owed by Winges at nearly $115,000.

“It certainly has been harmful to us,” Swenson said. “We had three years where we deferred our income, in part to this situation. I wasn’t surprised seeing the bankruptcy listing. I’m not optimistic about recovering any money.”

Minneapolis bankruptcy attorney George Singer, who is not involved in the Winges case, said it’s a common practice for business people filing personal bankruptcies to include past business debts in their personal liabilities to ensure that all their debts are discharged. A personal filing typically tries to include all that the debtor has been linked to, which explains the large number of creditors in the Winges filing, Singer said.

“He’s looking to get a fresh start and a discharge from his creditors,” Singer said. The creditors should be notified of the bankruptcy and have the right to file claims for their money, Singer added.

Justin Miller is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment for the Star Tribune.

  • Some creditors in the case

    Some of the largest creditors linked to Winges include:

    Lake Area Bank of White Bear Lake: with claims of $3.68 million.

    Central Bank of Osceola, Wis.: $1.7 million.

    David Ficek/Ficek Investment Co.: $1.65 million.

    Frisbie Architects Inc.: $663,794.

    Bank of America: $565,862.

    Roger Winges: $540,400.

    Messerli & Kramer PA: $382,176.

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